clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Remake of 'Raiders' is ingenious, remarkably well done

"RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: THE ADAPTATION" — 2½ stars — Eric Zala, Angela Rodriguez, Chris Strompolos, Kurt Zala, Ted Ross, Alan Stenum, Michael Bales, William Coon, Clay LaGrone, Sam Cummings; not rated; Tower Theater

"Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation" is a remarkable, surprisingly watchable, homemade, frame-by-frame copy of the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark," put together by a fearless group of youngsters during their summer vacations.

In 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (rated PG), which starred Harrison Ford and was directed by Steven Spielberg with the story by George Lucas, Indiana Jones, a history teacher with a penchant for uncovering trouble in his research expeditions, tries to locate the lost Ark of the Covenant, battling evil, danger and ancient curses along the way.

From 1982 to 1989, half a dozen movie-making kids in Mississippi, led by Eric Zala, worked on refilming all but one scene, including in their basements and living rooms, transforming water heaters into ancient temples and miraculously re-creating the fire scenes without burning down their houses, Zala said during a question-and-answer session at the LDS Film Festival earlier this year. Their mothers thought they were playing downstairs, he said.

And they were, as they hung from fast-moving trucks, escaped from snakes and spiders, and ran through fields and markets. They made five versions of the huge boulder Indiana has to outrun, Zala said. They staged sword fights and fistfights and matched the blocking of the original film seamlessly.

The film was directed by Zala, who was 11 when they started, with Jayson Lamb creating the special effects and helping with filming and editing, and Chris Strompolos starring in the lead role. Under the name of "Rolling Boulder Films," the friends made the tribute film out of imagination and spare parts without their mothers ever really realizing what they were doing, according to information shared during the festival's forum.

They begged and borrowed to get costumes and props, including a submarine and — 25 years later — an airplane.

For every Christmas and birthday, they requested something they could use, such as an Indiana Jones hat and bullwhip, a fedora for the villain and straw baskets for the street market, Zala said.

They recruited a friend, Angela Rodriguez, for the role of Marion. Kurt Zala, Eric Zala’s brother, and neighborhood friends Alan Stenum, Michael Bales and William Coon played the villain and his henchmen. Eric Zala stepped in to play multiple roles.

The end result is a fun watch, though it's a bit shaky in places and the sound levels aren't what viewers may be used to. The blocking is almost perfect, and Strompolos’ reactions and expressions throughout are an impressive imitation of Ford’s.

The kids' ages change as the movie progresses, of course, but it's amusing to see pint-size bad guys take on an older and now larger Indiana Jones.

It's interesting to see what the kids came up with to take the place of elements of the original film: for the monkey, they used a puppy, and some pet gerbils took the place of the rats. They handled the love scene quite well, especially given their young ages.

The final scene was filmed in 2014 — about 25 years after they finished the rest of the film. They brought in some professionals to set off the explosions and battled impossible weather as it rained for nine days, Zala said at the festival.

Zala said he, Strompolos and Lamb met with Spielberg and that Spielberg agreed to endorse the film on its cover: “To this day … still the best piece of flattery George (Lucas) and I have ever received.”

Ford is also aware that a bunch of “Mississippi kids” made their own Indiana Jones movie, Zala said.

A 95-minute documentary titled “Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made,” about Zala, Strompolos and Lamb, was produced by Tim Skousen and directed by Jeremy Coon and was also screened at the LDS Film Festival, where it received the Audience Choice Award in the Feature Films category.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation" is novel, and it's pleasing fans as it works its way around the world. It's showing at various film festivals, and DVDs and digital downloads of the film are available. More information is available at raidersguys.com.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation" is not rated but would likely be PG; running time: 100 minutes.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com